assemble in Nice
by Zhenya Gallon
If you werent there, you probably know someone who was. Nearly
11,000 geoscientists attended the first Joint EGS-AGU-EUG Assembly in
Nice, France, from 6 to 11 April. The meeting included members of the
European Geophysical Society, American Geophysical Union, and European
Union of Geoscientists. It was truly an international gathering, with
participants from every inhabited continent. Even Antarctica was represented
in sessions on the unusual split-up of the stratospheric ozone hole
The entrance hall for the Nice-Acropolis conference center.
(Photo by Zhenya Gallon.)
The meeting marked the transformation of the EGS and EUG into the
European Geosciences Union.
The Europeans invited their North American counterparts to help celebrate
the new organization and exchange ideas. The EGUs co-executive
secretaries, Arne Richter and Roland Schlich (who held comparable posts
in the EGS and EUG, respectively), were gratified by the packed hallways
and meeting rooms, despite SARS concerns and the war in Iraq. Now
we have momentum for the future, Schlich told the Quarterly.
The atmospheric sciences were well represented at the meeting, with
familiar topics ranging from atmospheric chemistry to solar physics
and weather dynamics. The large gathering also provided an opportunity
for international collaborators to discuss interdisciplinary problems
such as the 2002 floods in Central Europe, the El NiñoSouthern
Oscillation, biosphere-atmosphere interactions, and paleoclimatology.
The High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental
Research was introduced by Krista Laursen (HIAPER project director,
UCAR) and James Huning (HIAPER program officer, NSF). The instrumentation
sessions also included talks by several European scientists developing
new sensors that might one day fly aboard this high-altitude NSF/NCAR
Huning told meeting participants he expects UCARs international
affiliates to play a central role in promoting the kind of international
collaboration it will take to ensure HIAPERs success. He also
noted the opportunities for economies of engineering and equipment sharing
if the German Aerospace Center (DLR) continues its plans to bring a
different model of the Gulfstream V jet online. In this situation, he
noted, once youve tested once, youre done [for both
Two ozone holes in one
The ozone hole associated with the polar vortex over Antarctica in
late September 2002 exhibited behavior never before observed in the
Southern Hemisphere (see below). Three instruments aboard a new European
Space Agency satellite caught the action, which was described in several
talks and poster sessions by researchers working with the new European
Environmental Satellite (Envisat).
On 20 September the ozone hole exhibited its familiar, disc-like shape
when seen from above. But by 25 September it had divided as if pinched
in the middle into a dumbbell shape. After 30 September, one of the
two holes decayed, leaving behind a single, circular disc indicating
a lower level of ozone loss than usual. During the event, Halley Bay
recorded its warmest stratospheric temperatures since records began
there in 1957. At 30 kilometers (18 miles) above the South Pole, temperatures
on several days soared up to 20°C (38°F) warmer than at any
point during the 1990s. Through ongoing data assimilation work, scientists
are hoping to tease out the roles of meteorology and photochemistry.
Some investigators are pursuing indicators of natural variability or
human-induced climate change in the behavior of the vortex.
Hydrologists took advantage of the meeting to promote focused, worldwide
collaboration to stem what they term the crisis of the 21st century:
the lack of sustainable water management. The International Association
of Hydrological Sciences launched the Decade on Predictions in Ungauged
Basins, or PUB, in 2002 to bring resources to bear on the challenge
of predicting water flows where there are no or few river gauges.
PUB organizers see a convergence of extreme need with new techniques
capable of addressing it by combining modeling with remote sensing.
But more focused research on river-basin behavior is needed at a time
when the number of gauges continues to fall around the globe due to
cost cutting by governments in developing and developed countries alike.
Both basic knowledge and applications will benefit from the targeted
effort, according to Kuniyoshi Takeuchi, IAHS president, who spoke at
a press conference during the meeting. Drawing his examples from the
need to rebuild reservoirs in war-ravaged Afghanistan and Iraq, he added,
Water is not only a scientific problem. This is a social problem.
This ice-breaker on the terrace of the Nice-Acropolis conference
center took place on one of the meeting's rare sunny evenings. (Photo
How big is too big?
People tell me its too big, said Schlich about the
gathering. So I ask them, Why are you here? They tell me its
the only place in the world you can see everyone. He noted that,
after this years bash, next years inaugural EGU meeting
would be at human size, with tighter control over abstract
Bert Holtslag (Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and past NCAR
visitor and affiliate scientist) repeated the its too big
refrain, but also welcomed the chance to meet many U.S. colleagues a
bit closer to home. For NCARs Laura Pan, the synergy between atmospheric
chemists from the United States and Europe resulted in the exchange
of many good ideas at the meeting. NCAR colleague Sue Schauffler had
attended the EGS meeting in 2001 and was excited to return to Nice.
She relished the opportunity to hear from European counterparts: Its
so good for collaboration.